All posts by Jim Casale

Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Orlando, Florida but his old stomping grounds were in New York City. The best way to contact him is through twitter.

Grinder Finance – Winter is Coming

winter is coming


Yes, I realize it’s August.  I know it’s pretty much the middle of summer, and my article’s title makes little sense.  But give me a minute before you close the window to explain.  Winter is coming, and I don’t mean in the Stark way.

Note: Some of things I’m going to talk about are from the point of view of someone living in North America.  These examples may not be accurate to people living in Europe, Asia, and especially in the Southern Hemisphere.

So when people say “Oh yeah it’s Modern season,” what do they really mean?  Well there are two types of “seasons” in Magic.  One season has now become the Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier (or PPTQ) season.  There have been many versions of the PPTQ seasons but now there is a specific format for each one.  There are 4 PPTQ seasons per year (one for each Pro Tour) and they can only be the constructed format that corresponds to the Pro Tour or Sealed Deck.  What that means is with 3 Standard Pro Tours per year and 1 Modern Pro Tour per year, we get 3 seasons of Standard and 1 season of Modern.  Basically,  it’s almost always Standard season.  Even during the Modern PPTQ season there are plenty of people playing Standard at FNM, Grands Prix, StarCity Games Opens, etc.  For this reason, Standard cards are not affected by the PPTQ Season.

Standard cards however, are susceptible to the changing of the 4 seasons of weather.  Let’s talk about the last year of season to explain how we got to where we are.

Fall / Autumn :


This is the season where the typical large Fall set is released.  Depending on the day of the week, most of these sets release in late September or early October (Magic products always release on a Friday).  In the previous rotation cycle, this is set entering Standard kicks an entire year of Magic out of Standard.  With the release of Theros, Innistrad block and M13 both rotated out.  The cards from this set are usually very powerful in order to shake up a lame duck standard format.  Typically cards from this set are also under very volatile conditions the first month as people figure out the “new” Standard.  This is generally a poor time to buy cards because prices are high due to lack of supply.


Born of the Gods

The winter set was the middle set of a 3 set block but now will be the last set in 2  set block.  Born of the Gods, like many middle sets, was a small set that is supposed to greatly impact standard.  Unfortunately this time Born of the Gods was unable to be the big shakeup set that some middle sets, like Gatecrash, can be.  Currently there are only 2 cards in the set worth over $5 and this was true for most of it’s lifetime.  This set is usually released in early February.  It is critically timed right after the holiday break when most people will return to playing Magic.


Journey into Nyx

The final set of 3 set blocks is released in the Spring.  It allows for the “final piece” of many decks to be assembled and become dominant.  Cards from this set have to push some boundaries to make a splash in an otherwise established format.  When this set is released, Standard’s card pool is almost at it’s largest.  It makes it a lot harder for cards to break into the spotlight.  In Journey into Nyx, Constellation was saved for this set to hopefully revitalize the enchantment theme.  It was not very successful but recent emergence of Starfield of Nyx and Herald of the Pantheon have completed the deck as Wizards may have initially wanted it.



All Magic blocks culminate into Summer Slam… Or maybe that’s wrestling.  I always get those two mixed up because they’re so alike…  Anyway, the summer set is usually released in July.  It usually has pretty poor sales compared to Fall sets and card scarcity is usually a big issue.  This set is not opened as much because a lot of people go on vacation or (in the case of college students) are out of school for the summer.


Now what does that all mean for a card?  Let’s take a look at Stormbreath Dragon for a historical analysis of how the seasons affect a card price.

Click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

Stormbreath Dragon was released in October of 2013 in the fall set, Theros.  We can see it starts at pre-order price about $20.  Many people compared it to the much loved Thundermaw Hellkite but still many were skeptical of it’s smaller stats.  Then within a few weeks, peopled played with the card and realized it was insanely good! Boom, over night basically it was a $40 card.  That’s typical of popular fall set mythic rares.  And then afterwards, we see the slow decline into winter.  The peaks and valleys of this price graph is typical of cards from the fall set because of the seasons.  People play a lot less Magic during the month of December.  Wizards of the Coast Organized Play events go on break for usually the entire month of December and people frequently go home to visit family for the holidays.  This is by far the best time to buy into the fall set.  The best time to buy Battle for Zendikar will likely be during December and January.  Why?  Well because right after this dip back into reality, there is usually a spike around February after the 2nd set of the block is released.  Some decks become revitalized with new cards and people are excited to return to what they used at the beginning of the last set release.  Stormbreath Dragon again climbs up for a few months.

The second best time to buy the fall Standard-legal cards is the summer following it’s release.  This used to be the time for much maligned Core set releases.  Prices dip once again because some people want to go to the beach or do stuff outside.  Personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to go out into the sun and ruin their perfect pale complexion, but to each their own I suppose!  Summer is also another break for students.

The next peak for Stormbreath Dragon is… in the fall again?  Yep, traditionally rotation occurs with the new fall set.  This means anything that was keeping a card down from the previous block rotates out and it’s a brand new format!  The thing that really shakes up at rotation is how many cards are leaving and entering.  With the release of Khans of Tarkir in the fall of 2014, 269 new cards were entering the format.  The rotation of Return to Ravnica block and Magic 2014 removed 928 cards from the format!  Players are often not prepared for this amount of churn.  It’s been a while since anyone has drafted the previous years’ sets and people are excited to open new cards.  This causes the single prices for the previous block to increase due to no increased supply but greatly increased demand.

And then as soon as it happens, it’s winter again.  December and January see large drops in card prices across the board. This year was a little weird because two set releases were a little sooner than usual.  Fate Reforged was released almost two weeks earlier than usual (January 23rd vs Born of the Gods, which was released on February 7th).  Dragons of Tarkir was released a MONTH earlier than Journey into Nyx (March 27th vs May 2nd).  This was change was to accommodate the much-anticipated Modern Masters 2015 (released May 22nd).  The last hurrah for Stormbreath Dragon was a little later than usual because Dragons of Tarkir, as the name might imply, has many synergies with Dragons.

Side note: Dragon’s Maze continues to be one of the biggest disappointments because you can’t name a set “Dragon” and have none in it.

Notice how the last hurrah ended in May?  With the release of Modern Masters 2015, many people decided they were done with Theros block cards.  Grand Prix Las Vegas was largely responsible for the huge sell off of Theros block staples that cause the sharp decline in the Dragon’s Price.  From here on out we can see what lame duck cards do until the end of the format.  Stormbreath Dragon will be a great card for many years to come and pretty difficult to reprint due to Monstrosity.  If you were waiting to grab these for EDH your prime time is closing in.

Now for the feedback part of this article.  How do you like the structure? Would you like to see how seasons affect cards from the Winter, Spring, and Summer sets?  My next article will explain how play seasons affect Modern card prices.

Grinder Finance – Keeping your Collection Liquid

I think this is an article that’s been written before, but I doubt everyone has read it, so I’m going to write one.  An important part of Magic financial fitness is keeping a liquid collection.  What does that mean?

Well, a Magic collection is a lot like a plant.  If you give it plenty of sun and water it you’ll a pile of soggy unplayable cards, so not in that way.  But it’s similar in the fact that with a minimal amount of maintenance it will grow.  I assume many of the people that read my articles are not urban gardeners like myself, but there are a few things you can do to grow much fuller herbs.  If you give the herb sun and water it, it will grow just fine.  If you periodically fertilize and prune the plant it will grow fuller and faster.  Pruning a plant promotes new growth and a heartier plant.  Your collection acts the same way.

It’s pretty much impossible to grow a collection without adding more money into it, but it is possible to re-appropriate that value to help it grow.  It’s important to notice trends and to fertilize properly and prune properly.   Maybe I’m talking too much in abstract so let’s use some real world examples from my collection.


I’ve been pruning my collection of Magic Origins cards that have been popular in Standard.  The last few weeks have seen many different decks winning top-tier tournaments and have been affecting prices.  I play a lot of Magic so obviously I’m not looking to sell pieces of the deck I play but there are cards outside of that I own that I don’t need.  In the last month I’ve sold Demonic Pacts, Woodland Bellower, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Ghostfire Blade, Thopter Spynetwork, and Ensoul Artifact.

I’ve also been “fertilizing” my collection with cards that haven’t become a “thing” yet.  I got Ghostfire Blades and Abbot of Keral Keep right before they became super popular.  Right now I’ve been getting cards that are cheap because cheap cards can become expensive easily but expensive cards don’t get more expensive very easily.  Especially with how much Magic Origins product is being opened.

Dromoka's Command by James Ryman
Dromoka’s Command by James Ryman

As this is now the weekend after a five-Abzan Top 8, I would recommend watching the movement of the staples for this deck.  It’s going to be probably the last chance you have to trade away Fleecemane Lion for literal anything.  It’s fair trade value is about $2 and if you can flip it into any of the painlands from Magic Origins it is really hard to go wrong.  Dromoka’s Command is another card that is surging despite its recent reprinting in the Magic Origins clash pack.  Fellow MTGPrice writer Derek Madlem suggested last week that Dromoka’s Command was a criminally underpriced card.  Given its play last weekend, I’d say he was right.  Dromoka’s Command will also survive an extra rotation as Dragons of Tarkir will not rotate with the rest of the block.

Mantis Rider by Johann Bodin
Mantis Rider by Johann Bodin

But do you know what I really like doing now? Grabbing all of your Khans of Tarkir staples.  There really isn’t a better time to  buy Rattleclaw Mystic, Mantis Rider, Savage Knuckleblade, Siege Rhino, or Sorin, Solemn Visitor.  We’ve already seen an uptick of Sorin in response to the abundant UR Thopters decks and Monored decks.  Any card that gives your whole team lifelink and is on the same team as Siege Rhino can be good against aggressive decks. Mantis Rider’s price tag of $1 is a pretty safe bet.  After Battle For Zendikar enters the fray we will be losing our only two-mana spell that can kill Mantis Rider.  Surprisingly, Mantis Rider is pretty durable when your options for removal are Ultimate Price, Swift Reckoning, Valorous Stance, and Roast.  He can still die to Draconic Roar and Foul-Tongue Invocation but that’s a pretty small subset of available spells.

What else do we prune?  Card of the week syndrome can hit hard and fast.


Pucatrade has a resource that includes the most popular trades of the last day, week, month, year.  Things that get popular quick and fall off are the best choices for a quick pruning.  You know what we don’t need to hold with impeding Eldrazi? $2 Sphinx’s Tutelages.  No matter how good the deck is now it is unlikely two colorless cards will “share a color.”

Next on our list? Keep an eye on new saplings waiting to be planted.  Some cards that pre-ordered at the beginning for a lot are coming down to more reasonable price ranges.


While there is nothing I’m advocating as a buy today, there are a few cards I would keep a sharp eye on.

Sword of the Animist by Daniel Ljunggren
Sword of the Animist by Daniel Ljunggren

Sword of the Animist is card that preordered for $5 after being touted by StarCity Games’ Ben Bleisweiss as one of the best cards in the set but now is down to half of that number.  Casual appeal should keep this from ever hitting true bulk but with the confirmation of Landfall as a returning mechanic in Battle for Zendikar, this has some legs.  It may have some more room to drop but as soon as it turns the corner is the time to buy in.

Harbinger of the Tides by Svetlin Velinov
Harbinger of the Tides by Svetlin Velinov

Harbinger of the Tides was another hyped card.  If we are expecting Eldrazi that are large and in charge in the next set I don’t see how this guy doesn’t fit into the resistance.  He’s a reasonable body attached to a powerful effect versus cards that might have been cheating into play with See the Unwritten.  He also still does a decent job of unsummoning all of the Dragonlords except Dromoka at instant speed.  He also may have some space to drop but when we approach $1 there is no real risk in buying in.

Surrak the Huntcaller by Wesley Burt
Surrak the Huntcaller by Wesley Burt

What does Surrak, the Huntcaller do? A ton really.  He trades with Siege Rhino, he triggers ferocious for See the Unwritten and gives haste to whatever huge fatty you put into play with it.  The art of this card may be more telling of his future with Dragonlord Atarka emerging from his shadow to fly in for a kill.

In conclusion, water your collection and leave it out in the sun if you think it’s a plant.  Otherwise keep an eye on trends and make sure to move parts of your collection you aren’t using to free up money to invest in parts you will need later down the line.



Grinder Finance – Battle for Zendikar… Fetch lands

Well this news is old by now.  If you saw the earth-shattering announcement from Mark Rosewater:



As you can imagine from the staggering 1,150 notes, there was a lot to be said about this announcement.  No fetch land reprints!?  What is Wizards of the Coast thinking!? Well I will tell you fine Magic playing fellows, they were thinking they didn’t need to be reprinted.  Modern just received a huge infusion of fetch lands that were not even previously legal only a year ago.


I’m going to take a quick second before I continue to urge you to buy your Khans of Tarkir fetch lands.  Don’t finish that one sweet EDH deck you’ve been working on for months.  Don’t buy into the UR Mill deck that just won Grand Prix San Diego last week.  Do yourself a favor and just get your set of lands.  And then go out and tell your friends to get theirs too.  There is no place these cards can go but up.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

So yeah, Wizards was thinking that a fall set filled with lands that haven’t been printed since their original release in October of 2002 would be better.  You know, like 13 years ago.  So when you look at it like that ,there really isn’t a reason to complain about the Zendikar lands not being reprinted a mere 6 years later (Zendikar was released in October of 2009).

And then came the announcement that kind of felt like this.  People panicked!  What else are you supposed to do?  They’re not getting printed!  Well a product of nobody being prepared was really just a reasonable price for what Zendikar lands were available.  And then quickly not available as people became prepared.  The buyout was not silent but very deadly.  Over night, as you may have noticed, every Zendikar fetch land has doubled in price.  Is it going to stay that way? Probably not forever.  Is it worth buying them now? Probably not anymore.

What a lot of people tend to forget is how powerful the Khans of Tarkir ones are in Modern.  Many decks don’t actually need enemy colored fetch lands to function.  There are one and a half exceptions to this.  Jund is a deck that is pretty much unplayable without Verdant Catacombs.  The main reason is you need to be able to fetch basic Swamp and basic Forest in order to play effectively around Blood Moon.  But to be completely realistic, there is no way you’re able to afford the spells in Jund and not the lands.  Any deck that plays 4 Tarmogoyfs is generally no longer shackled by the price of it’s lands.

The other land that sees a tremendous amount of play in modern from Zendikar is Scalding Tarn.  This land is by far the most expensive and probably the most widely played.  It’s also pretty replaceable.  The reason fetch lands see such high play is the ability to fetch Ravnica shock lands but also to fetch basic lands to beat Blood Moon.  If your deck has 1 Steam Vents in it then you can play Scalding Tarn, Arid Mesa, Misty Rainforest, Bloodstained Mire, Wooded Foothills, Polluted Delta, or Flooded Strand to fetch it.  If those are you only concerns you have a ton of choices of lands to play!  Unfortunately it is not that simple, you need access to appropriate basics.  As a frequent fetcher of Islands, I can safely say that Scalding Tarn could be replaced with Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand, or Misty Rainforest while only sacrificing tiny percentage points in your matches.  The reality is there is not a lot of situations you want to fetch basic Mountain and therefore any Island fetch land will suffice.  Modern has long been a Steam Vents vs Overgrown Tomb format and the reality is you almost never need to fetch basic Mountain.

Where do we go from here? Just play other Island fetch lands in your decks.  You can play Modern and you will not likely lose to your inability to fetch a basic Mountain.  If you want to play a Green and Black deck, well I have no alternative to offer you other than to buy Verdant Catacombs.  It sucks they’re really expensive but there is truly no other alternative.  Other than you know, the decks that don’t play fetch lands…

Which brings us to our Daily Double


Well if you can’t buy cards, you can always sell cards, right?  Now I think is time to get out of any short term specs you have for Magic Origins. I personally have been selling out of a ton.


You know what to do when you double on a spec?  Get out while you still can!  I picked up 3 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy on Pucatrade for 1500 Pucapoints near release (about $15).  I was able to sell them locally to a player for $30 per copy and plan to buy them back in October during Battle for Zendikar hype.

Demonic Pact

I sold these when the Pro Tour spike was in effect but I don’t think they’re terrible good to hold onto when they have a fair trade price of $9.25.  I think it will quickly drop down to a $5 niche rare until it spikes another tournament.  The risk that these fall before another spike is too high for my liking.

Languish Nissa


If you own these and don’t play Abzan there is not really any reason to keep them.  Nissa is a $25 Borderland Ranger in a deck that is clogged at 3 more than a toilet at a frat party.  With Hero’s Downfall, Deathmist Raptor, Courser of Kruphix, Abzan Charm, Anafenza the Foremost, and more at 3, there is little reason this will see enough copies to maintain it’s price.  Similarly Languish has been described in Patrick Chapin’s podcast as a “Poor man’s drown in sorrow and a poor man’s crux of fate”.  The reality of the spell is it’s unlikely to get played in huge enough numbers to continue to hold it’s price tag that is 4 times as much as Crux of Fate.

mtg ghostfire blade

This card isn’t worth much but it’s worth more than nothing.  It takes a lot for a card to be more than bulk in Khans of Tarkir due to the fetch lands taking up so much of the set’s value.  Enjoy this short boost in value by trading your copies out.

Bull Market


There are some cards I think are still good pickups right now and have been acquiring them myself.


Low mana cost flexible mythic rare from a small set?  This is practically the textbook definition of “could be worth a ton.”  With the rotation of Elvish Mystic there is a real premium on good 1 drops that aren’t Red.  It’s unlikely Abzan is going anywhere and with the rotation of Fleecemane Lion there are a lot less good things to do on turn 2.  There are a lot worse places you could put your money than on this sub $4 card.


So this card is pretty close to bulk and I don’t foresee that staying that way in the future.  The big difference between this and a lot of similar effects is that YOU choose everything.  Is your best guy better than their worst guy? That’s pretty good because that’s the board state after this card.  At a fair trade value of $0.69 there is little to lose by buying in now.  It’s picking up a ton of steam on Pucatrade too.  That has been a fairly good indicator that players value the card more than it’s current price.  I also think the foil at $2ish is probably a good pickup as it does similar things to an EDH game.

And with this extra long edition of Grinder Finance I hope you all did great at Game Day and are ready for our first taste of Battle for Zendikar spoilers.  I expect we will see some big reveals August 28-31st at Pax Prime.


Grinder Finance – Are you a Rick or are you a Morty?

*burrrp* I’m going to preface this article with a belch, and the fact that I’ve just finished binge watching Rick and Morty.  If you have not watched Rick and Morty, I’m sorry to hear that.  You’re doing a great disservice to yourself and your Rick.  I assume if you’ve not watched the show, you’re probably still a Morty.  It’s okay though, I’m here to help you blossom into a beautiful (if you can call it that) Rick.

I’ll assume if you’re still reading that you haven’t stopped to binge watch Rick and Morty.  It’s a shame but I suppose I will need to briefly describe the dichotomy of their relationship.  Rick and Morty are a lot like Batman and Robin, except Batman is a time-traveling genius and Robin is a naive, gullible child.  Okay maybe that wasn’t the best description and it doesn’t quiet fit what I’m trying to explain here but bear with me.  Rick is a quick decisive thinker that analyzes all outcomes of a scenario before proceeding.  Morty is a whimsical character that often goes through life flying by the seat of his pants.  Whenever Morty decides that something that Rick is doing is immoral, unfun, or stupid, he challenges Rick based on some very loose ideas.  Rick is not the kind of guy who cares enough to prevent Morty from failing so many of these adventures end adversely for Morty.  In Magic finance you want to be a Rick.  You want to be able to call your picks early while having sound information to back up your claims.  If you are a Morty and wait for other smarter people to figure out you end up the greater fool.

If you read James Chillcott’s article this week, you may have noticed my pickups were pretty solid given the weekend’s events.  I was definitely a Rick last week and upped my Rick game this weekend.  I was reading Twitter (as I am known to do) on Sunday night and writer, Travis Allen, posted this pertaining to the stock of Demonic Pacts on TCG Player.  It was a card that I’d personally played with and it was powerful but it didn’t make the top 8.  I quickly browsed through remaining copies and there were only a handful of sellers with the card in stock.  I noticed ChannelFireball had listed theirs at a whopping $20 per copy.  My acquisition price was a mere 425 Puca Points (which are like not even real dollars, right?) so I was cautiously optimistic about listing my copies for $15.  It seems like a no-brainer to list the cards but I am also a player of the game.  If this card breaks out and becomes really popular in Standard there is a chance of it being worth big bucks and I will need it to play.  The reality of the situation is that in my testing it always felt like you had to jump through too many loops to make your deck able to play the card.  It will be fringe and it might be good for a weekend but it’s unlikely to be an all-star $40 mythic for it’s lifetime in Standard.  The opportunity cost to rebuy the cards later is unlikely to be more than the amount I would get for them now.

I listed my copies and took a non-proverbial poop.  I returned to my computer to continue chatting about the exciting Pro Tour results and I found a bite.  A greater fool had rushed to purchase their copies and snatched up my playset.  While you won’t always sell your cards in a single night, or poop (like in my case), but there you always have the ability to be in the right place at the right time.  It takes a real Rick to known when an opportunity has come along and pounce on it.

Ok Morty, enough talk about being a Rick.  We’ve got some card prices to briefly talk about.  Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, articles are an extremely slow way to relay information.  If you waited for this to come out to get advice about pickups over the weekend then we’re far past that point.  Fortunately, a lot of people had been banging pots and pans and shouting from the rooftop about what cards to pickup before this weekend.  If you don’t have a twitter account you’re really doing yourself a disservice and probably costing yourself a lot of money.  Twitter, like most social media, is a very social platform that people talk about their interests on.  While you may think it’s a place for mostly pet pictures or food pictures there are some people who would rather talk MTG finance.  You can quickly browse the #mtgfinance hashtag but I find it extremely difficult to glean any real useful information from it.  All of the writers here at MTGPrice have a twitter account that post great up to the minute information.  But sometimes you have to deal with Jason Alt tweeting @Midnight hoping to become funnier somehow when they hopefully retweet him.  If you had been following me, however, you may have been able to be the smartest Morty around! In between the all the “I called it”s, I posted this innocuous tweet.  Now I’m not saying you should follow me for my insightful tweets, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t.


Now is the part where I drop a little Rick insight into you about what I think are great pickups this week.


Modern Masters 2015 foils have begun to rise.  Much like non-foil Modern Masters 2015 cards, a rising tide will lift all boats.  I think the product for this has stopped being opened and with Modern purchases pretty much bottomed out there is no where for this card to go but up.  It is unlikely people will need less of them with the constant threat of Tron and Bloom rearing their ugly heads.


Windswept Heath (more specifically the clash pack if you can still find them under $25) is a fickle beast.  It took a huge hit with it’s inclusion in the clash pack but this is not Bloodstained Mire.  Arguably one of the best fetchlands in Modern, it’s hard to see this ever command a sub $10 price tag ever again.  If you don’t own a set there isn’t really any incentive to wait any longer.

dragonlord atarkathunderbreak

My last pickups are a pair of red dragons!  Dragonlord Atarka is the clear standout among the crowd of Elder Dragons right now.  This card has the biggest upside if See the Unwritten becomes popular with some Eldrazi in Battle for Zendikar.  Thunderbreak Regent is a card that will become a lot more popular in red mirrors because of it’s huge size and punishing trigger.  It’s even a fringe Modern playable card.  I don’t expect to see any more dips in it’s price as we get closer to rotation when there become less good four drops.